Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The UK gets fit as sales of sports goods surge

New data from ecommerce provider Visualsoft has revealed that revenue across sports, outdoors and recreation retailers increased by 30% in January 2024, compared to the monthly average in 2023. This marks an increase of 15% year on year (2024 vs 2023), a healthy recovery from the peak Covid years when it dropped by 12.5% in 2023 compared to 2022. The growth is ahead of inflation rates, pointing to an enthusiasm to get fit and healthy in January – and spend to do so.

A similar picture emerges in the health, beauty & cosmetics sector where January saw a growth of 16% compared to 2023 averages, although comparing January YOY there was a dip of 0.8%.

However, Average Order Value for sports decreased by 9%, and by 13% for the health category, demonstrating that consumers are still looking for deals as many face pressures on their wallet, exacerbated by the Christmas spending spree. The highest converting campaigns were those that focused on discounts, although there was also a high click through rate with experimentation into not displaying prices. Peak trading day in sports was 15 January, seeing a huge 83% higher revenue than average.

Antony Hoyland, VP of Business Development at Visualsoft, commented: “In a time when people are feeling the pinch, and January can feel like a long month with many companies offering earlier pay dates in December, it’s good these sites show improvement. It does show that the health kick in January is one quite well ingrained in people and that people are willing to spend into it. However while sales of sports goods are high we can also see that the health, beauty and cosmetics has seen a decline (-1%) at a time where campaigns are often targeting health and wellness. It looks like currently people are favouring sport and activity as part of their new year goals.”

Traffic peaked on 26 December, suggesting that before the turkey has even settled people are considering their new year goals, while conversion rates were highest on 2 January, as the January health kick mantras kick on. There were 57 times more searches for the term ‘gym’ and 13 times more for the word ‘fitness’ than there were for ‘weight loss’, a positive indicator that people are embracing holistic health for physical benefits that go beyond their clothes size.

Sarah Adams, Head of Social Strategy at Visualsoft, said: “There’s some controversy around pushing the concept of ‘New Year New You’ on social media. Typically if a client wants to lean into it, we look to focus more on wellbeing and self-care rather than complete change, as we know that this can have a negative impact on mental health. This year we had huge success with a client that took the approach to focus on ‘starting the new year on the right foot’ ‘investing in yourself’ and ‘treating yourself after treating everyone else at Christmas’. They achieved an average Return on Spend of £15.”